Survivor Speaks Out Against Sexual Abuse and Violence
A sex trafficking survivor has joined the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, in calling on victims of sexual abuse and violence to speak out.
This week is Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week (Monday 5 February until Sunday 11 February), with organisations across the county raising awareness of how to prevent it, using the hashtag #itsnotok on social media.
Jeff Cuthbert is responsible for commissioning victim support services in the Gwent area. Recently, he met with 55-year-old Alan at a Modern Slavery Awareness event he organised in partnership with Joyce Watson AM in Cardiff. Alan, who now lives in North Wales, bravely shared his experiences as a victim of sex trafficking in the 1980’s at the event. This week, Alan is sharing his story to warn others of the dangers, to encourage more people to report these crimes and to highlight how anyone, no matter what their background is, can become a victim of sexual abuse and violence.
Alan, who grew up in Sussex, hailed from a privileged background and was educated in one of the best private schools in Kent. However, after failing his A-levels and not knowing which direction to take, he struck out into London in search of adventure and a more wholesome environment and life. He slept on various people’s floors until an older man he knew very well from his past took him in and groomed him.
The man played on Alan’s angst and insecurities. When Alan was about 17, the man took him to an apartment in London under false pretences and introduced him to the leader of what was, unbeknown to Alan, a sex trafficking gang. Within minutes of entering the apartment, he was raped and was trapped and sexually abused by the gang leader in the apartment for two weeks. For the next four years, Alan was trafficked around different parts of Europe such as Germany, Spain, France and Italy. He was expected, under threat, to have sex with men and had to work for the gang master for nothing. He was only allowed to have severely controlled, if any contact at all, with family and friends.
After numerous failed attempts, Alan eventually escaped the clutches of his captor. He eventually managed to find work in theatre production as a set carpenter and started his own family. However, haunted by his past, his family life eventually unravelled and he lost everything. It was only after watching a TV documentary on modern slavery and human trafficking a couple of years ago that Alan fully realised the extent of what had happened to him and that is when he found the confidence and the courage to call the Modern Slavery Helpline. Eventually, Alan, who now lives in North Wales, was put in touch with BAWSO, a Wales-wide organisation providing specialist services, including support for human trafficking victims. With support from BAWSO, Alan is now trying to rebuild his life and regain control.
Urging victims to speak out, Alan said: “I was targeted apparently because of my vulnerable situation. The gang used to talk about people they would target and how they selected young boys and girls to be groomed. The gang leader was a very controlling and imposing physical presence and he used to brag about how he inflicted physical and psychological cruelty on people. I was deeply in fear of my life.
To think I was a slave and a victim of sex trafficking is extraordinary. I have spent my life researching this and trying to come to terms with it. I am one of those people who slipped through the net. Even after thirty years, I still think they will come for me and will follow me. That is how much control they inflict on you. It led to the collapse of my marriage and the loss of my family and home. My sense of self-worth is rock bottom.”
Alan added: “It’s massively important to raise awareness about these issues. My message to any victim is to try and get appropriate help as soon as you can, but be gentle and kind to yourself. It took many years for me to get that help and support. In line with the Power Threat Meaning framework practice, BAWSO and the Police have been a rock for me. BAWSO, especially, are compassionate, they are sincere, they are dogged, they are simple in their approach and they have been there ever since.”
Gwent’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Jeff Cuthbert, said: “Supporting victims and preventing further serious harm is one of the priorities in my Police and Crime Plan. We have first-class help and support available for victims in Gwent and it is crucially important that victims of sexual abuse and violence, even if its’ non-recent in nature, know there is always someone here to help. The latest crime reporting statistics show that more victims have the confidence to speak out and come forward to report sexual offences in Gwent. However, as well as providing support, it is also vital to raise awareness of sexual abuse and sexual violence and how we can prevent it. I would like to thank Alan for the courage and the bravery he has demonstrated by sharing his harrowing story to help raise awareness.”
During the awareness week, messages encouraging victims to come forward will be shared on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website and social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag, #itsnotok.
Anyone who would like to speak to someone in confidence about sexual abuse or violence can contact Gwent Police on 101, staff at the Connect Gwent Victims Hub on 0300 123 21 33 or via the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org